Christmas Expectations

Christmas is a time of magical whimsy.  It’s that special time of year when greediness is praised and expectations are high.

To meet those mile-high expectations, perfectionists, like me, are in full-swing planning and preparing every last detail to show the world what sets us apart from the common folk.

{Loud voices, tears, outbursts, apologies, tears, airborne objects, window repair trucks, tears}

Add in a nice dose of reality and sometimes those expectations come crashing down.  Let’s just say that there are plenty of “At least I’m pretty” moments for me around any important day.

I could crumble into a crying heap of sorrow and label Christmas as a failure {aka the easy thing to do} or I could realize that Jesus wasn’t born so that I could bake a perfect pie and get my daughter a surprise Barbie {the more “adult” thing to do but not as likely…until I’ve cried enough}.

Last year I was working for a consulting firm that allowed me to work from home twice a week.

{That’s a perk that is coveted by many but it really isn’t all that great for an extrovert.}

On the days I was home I tried to pick Bella up from school when I wasn’t busy so that she and I could quote movies spend some time together.

So, beginning in August, at 2:20 I was there waiting on her in the car pool lane.  Sometimes we’d go to Starbucks for an afternoon snack, then we’d come home and I would finish up working for the day while she watched TV and told me stories about why she had to go to the Principal’s office this time.

{Mommy, I didn’t PULL the fire alarm.  I just TOUCHED it!}

As the holiday season grew near the hubs and I steadily made purchases for everyone, especially the kids, and kept the gifts in the guest room with the door locked.

One day, in particular, I was in the guest room wrapping a few gifts for other people, I did a few things around the house, worked on a few client projects, then realized it was time to go get Bella.

I picked her up from school and when we got home I went into the family room and sat down on the couch to do some work.  She sat down right beside me.  After a few minutes she told me she needed to go “potty”.  No big deal.  It’s what kids do.  They “potty”.

One thing about my Bella is that she is JUST like me.  A dreamer and easily distracted.  It is not at all uncommon for my husband to find both of us standing in the middle of a room like we were on our way to do something but got interrupted, staring at the TV completely oblivious to anything else going on around us.

So for her to be gone for more than a few minutes isn’t unusual.

What IS unusual, and was highly unexpected, was for her to come downstairs wearing a Disney Princess book bag, holding a baby doll, carrying books, clothes, and Barbies, with a Hello Kitty sleeping bag draped around her shoulders.

Ladies and Gents, Christmas threw up on my Bella.

She was elated.  She declared, “Mommy!!!!  LOOK WHAT I FOUND!!!!!!!!!!!!” grinning from ear to ear.

Has anyone ever wanted to hit the rewind button in life?  Maybe have a do-over?

Besides my first marriage, this moment was right up there.

I forgot to lock the door to the guest room.  She found the presents.

All.  The.  Presents.

While showing me what she found she was also telling me what was up there for Roman.  The she stopped.

“Mommy, what’s wrong?”

Yep.  I was in shock.  I couldn’t move.  I wanted to cry at the thought that she might no longer believe in Santa at age 5, laugh at the hilarity of the visual spectacle in front of me, be mad at myself for leaving the door unlocked, and hit the rewind button all at the same time.

I was trying to calmly stop the tears from freely flowing down my face so that she wouldn’t think she’d done something wrong.

So, I thought up a lie and I thought it up quick.

{A little Grinch reference for Christmas.  You’re welcome.}

I explained that parents sometimes keep extra presents to help Santa out in case there is an emergency at the North Pole and the Elves can’t finish making all the toys.  I told her that Santa knows that she wants the toys on her list and I was sure he would bring her what she wanted but it may be a different color than what she has in her hand (or on her body).  Those were the “just in case” presents.

SHE BOUGHT IT.  Phew.

As soon as my hubs got home and the kids went to bed I made a lot of exchanges at Target and Toys R Us that night.

Once the shock wore off I realized that this was minor.

Just a month before, I decided I was going to bake my famous Chocolate Meringue Pie to take to my mom’s for Thanksgiving.  The last time I made one I could still fit into my high school cheerleading uniform (because I was still in high school).  But I got this.

Four failed pies later I brought two to my mom’s.  They were HORRIBLE.  Apparently in my baking hiatus I’d forgotten the difference between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.  Oops.

The pies tasted horrible and looked worse.  But I was still pretty.  And that’s all that matters.

I’d never really had a bad holiday experience until seven years ago.  That entire holiday season, from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day (yes, Valentine’s Day) put things into perspective for me now.

Here are just a few tid bits from that fateful holiday season:

The week before Thanksgiving, seven months pregnant with my first baby, married to my first husband, stationed in Seattle, 3,000 miles away from my family I was excited to start making traditions with my own little family.

Tradition #1

Husband #1 had been cheating on me since July.  It was now November.  He tells me the week before Thanksgiving.  Awesome.

{Thanks for being honest!  It truly is the best policy.}

Tradition #2

Husband #1 wouldn’t get a Christmas tree so I went to Michael’s with my 8-month pregnant belly and hauled an artificial tree home by myself.  And decorated it by myself.

{A 3rd trimester preggo belly is a great place to prop a tree box.  It is not, apparently, a beacon for others to pause and see if you need help.}

Tradition #3

On our anniversary, the day before New Year’s Eve, he goes on a trip.  Nope.  He’s with his girlfriend.  On our anniversary.  He flew her from Ft. Bragg to Seattle while I was 8 months pregnant at home by myself.  On our anniversary.

{You bet your ass I caught him.}

I didn’t like where these traditions were going.

However, I had nowhere to go but up!

So up I went, well, technically Atlanta is below and over.  I packed myself and my tiny little baby and moved back home to Atlanta.

Each year has been better and better.

So now, when a little nugget finds the Christmas presents or I burn a turkey I remember that it could be worse.

I truly know what it means to struggle.

But, I am grateful for the bad because it made me incredibly appreciative of the good.

I’m grateful for a hubs that loves me and is willing to work things out instead of running off to find a girlfriend.

I’m grateful to be close to my family.

I’m grateful and excited when my hubs wants to get a Christmas tree and decorate it with me (even though this year I excused him because my OCD took over.  Sorry, baby.)

I’m grateful for my sweet little babies.

AND, I’m grateful for being pretty.  You know, the important things.

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